Life on the Mississippi

“Mississippi Queen, you know what I mean.  Mississippi Queen, she taught me everything.”- Mountain

Tuesday, September 16th

It’s not often that a “sandbar” is my destination. Today this was the case and it exceeded my expectations.

Mike Clark furnished me with his personal U.S. Army Corp maps for the Mississippi River. He had marked many of his”” maps and indicated a sandbar about 40 miles down river had “fantastic camping.” I figured his information was reliable so I made this my destination.

It was a good float, debris was less heavy, I saw fewer barges, and the weather was cool. The river was moving quickly and I arrived at the sandbar around 3:00.  “The Sandbar” is actually an island that was created by a water chute that cuts throug the Mississippi. It was perfect.

I took a rare nap, organized my gear, made a few calls and enjoyed a great camping night. It’s funny with the shorter days how my camping experience has been more enjoyable. In Montana and in the Dakotas sunset wasn’t until 9:30-10:00 so by the time darkness fell I was horizontal, now I am pretty much off the river by 6:00 so I have more time to “take in” the evening. A good river day and great river evening.

The Cape.  Cape Girardeau, MO.

The Cape. Cape Girardeau, MO.

Avoid at ALL costs

Avoid at ALL costs

Life's a beach

Life’s a beach




Wednesday, September 17th

Confluence Day.  It evolved into Hickman, Kentucky Day.  I launched about 22 miles from the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers this morning and   finished the evening in Hickman, KY.

I started the morning with intentions to finish my day in Hickman, KY (about 50 miles).  This was in doubt as I passed the Mississippi-Ohio confluence as clouds started to thicken.  I decided Hickman may be a lost cause so I landed on an island for a long lunch.  I decided to call my friend from Kentucky, Randy Hepler, and let him know I was in his home state. He said he was from Hickman, which was news to me, so I decided I needed to try to make it. I did barely. At sunset.  Once I landed in Hickman I called Randy and asked, jokingly, where is my red carpet treatment..before I could say another word he told me he would call me back.  He called back and said his long time friend, Mike Majors, would pick me up and take me to Hub’s, a local landmark restaurant.

This was totally unexpected, Mike and I had a great dinner,  it is fascinating to hear the local perspectives of the river and it’s relationship with the town.

Oh, and the significance of reaching the Ohio-Mississippi confluence? I’m in the south.  The wonderful Kentucky accent from our waitress confirmed as much. Hello Kentucky!!!


A, O, way to go's the confluence of the OH & MS

A, O, way to go OHIO…here’s the confluence of the OH & MS

(my) pictures don't do it was a big river interchange

(my) pictures don’t do it justice…it was a big river interchange

outside Hickman KY

outside Hickman KY

Inside Hickman KY

Inside Hickman KY

Mike, seated front left, and buds at local eatery

Mike, seated front left, and buds at local eatery

Thursday, September 18th

I awoke from a comfortable night in the port of Hickman. I walked into town to a local breakfast joint and ran into Mike Majors. You have to love small town America. The breakfast was hearty and inexpensive. You really have to love small town America.

After recharging (literally and figuratively) I headed out. My days on the Mississippi now consist of negotiating this massive river, bends are typically 5 miles apart, barges are commonplace, and every now and again I run into a fisherman.  Today I came across a gentleman, Mr. Butler, who caught a 60 pound catfish.  He proudly displayed his catch for me.

Great camping locations are pretty much everywhere so I have been less concerned about finding a good spot.  Memphis is on my mind-I should arrive on Sunday or Monday.  I am looking forward to meeting the river angel of river angels-Dale Sanders.  He is a legendary paddler and intends to canoe the entire Mississippi next year. He’s 79 (sorry Dale).

The current on the Mississippi has slowed down, I now am making 5-6 mph versus 7 mph above the Ohio confluence.  This was evident yesterday and today confirmed as much.  I worked hard to paddle 40 miles, settling in at a nice sandbar across from New Madrid,  MO.  It was great to experience the small city lights and activities as night descended.

The Mississippi still has my respect, at the conclusion of each day I am thankful for a safe journey…this river is nothing to mess around with.  Also, these sandy beaches are great although it pretty much is a constant battle to deal with, it gets everywhere. Even my Twizzlers.


Heading out

Heading out

Ran into Mr.Butler..and his 60lb catfish

Ran into Mr.Butler..and his 60lb catfish


landing spot across from New Madrid, MO

landing spot across from New Madrid, MO

It's a BIG river

It’s a BIG river

Friday, September 19th

Well so much for fall. It’s the south and it’s hot…and sunny.  Mosquitos were  back this morning with a vengeance.   I won’t complain too much, at least the wind has been manageable and I (sshhh) haven’t had a weather related day off the river in some time.

I departed New Madrid (across the river anyway) and hoped to paddle 50 miles. I settled for 40+.  No question the river is slower, especially when I am outside the “channel.”  The channel is where barge traffic will always be and where the current is the strongest and fastest. I try to stay in the channel as often as possible although I quickly exit once I spy one of the monstrous barges.  I am definitely a chicken when it comes to barge traffic.

As the day wore on, I decided I wanted to stop in Caruthersville, MO to pick up a few supplies (and maybe a warm meal).  I landed at the boat ramp and met some great locals including Jarred Cartee. Also, I ran into another long distance paddler, Collin from Wisconsin. He started on July 4th from the Wisconsin River and hopes to make the gulf in a few months.  He is an interesting guy, he knows everything about survival and can identify pretty much everything out here.  We chatted for a while and he decided to go to town and pick up a few items for us while I watched the boats at the ramp.

He returned and we decided to camp together and decided on a sandbar about 5 miles downriver.  We found ourselves stuck in a barge traffic jam.  He has more courage than I possess and decided that it would be best to tuck behind a downstream barge and cut over to the shore where our sandbar was located.  It was unsettling since there was an upstream barge coming as well.  It worked out well although I am not sure the upstream barge was happy with us…the issue would have been if we waited for all the barges to clear the current would have taken us well past our camping spot.

I enjoyed camping with a fellow paddler, we shared war stories and discussed the greatness of the Mississippi River…I think he also found my stories of the Missouri River interesting-at least that’s what my ego tells me.  He is definetly taking his time only paddling 4-5 hours a day.

We were both bushwhacked after a long day and called if a night.  I am sure I will head out before him tomorrow.  I should arrive in Memphis on Monday.  Paddle on, paddle on.

Blue skies ahead

Blue skies ahead

Hey, if you've got it. You've got it.

Hey, if you’ve got it. You’ve got it.

Collin's setup

Collin’s setup



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4 Responses to Life on the Mississippi

  1. Dana TeCulver says:

    “People do just what they will
    Don’t matter to the river, it’s runnin’ still”
    Kenny Wayne Shepherd

    The unfolding saga continues to amaze me. Especially interesting is all the amiable “river folk” you are meeting up with.

  2. Donald Zinter says:

    Welcome to the South Keith (mosquitoville USA), Yes small town America is a great and wonderful place to be, a lot can be said for the peace and tranquility one can experience there , not to mention the absence of crime (Mayberry R.F.D.) in real time. You now have a flavor of what life was like when I was in the Navy and stationed in Meridian Mississippi for two years. Enjoy your travels.

  3. Michael Callaway says:

    Hey, I am sure that the people of South Dallas or The Cliffs could be just as nice and friendly as the good people in small town USA.

  4. Will Garvin says:

    It’s not just in the south … there are so many mosquitoes at Fourchette Bay (25SEP) that I’m motelling it in Zortman. Paddle on, sir!!!

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